Texas bounces back with an easy win

AUSTIN, Texas -- Let's call this the yawn before the storm.

Or maybe, the breather before the back breakers?

Whatever you settle on, Texas' 43-0 blitzkrieg of Kansas is a win, and at this point, the Longhorns need all they can get.

"Especially in the Big 12, it's proven to be very random every week as far as who shows up and who comes out to play," safety Blake Gideon said.

Count Texas among those teams. Two bad losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State followed by Texas' first shutout since 2005 and its top offensive performance of the season. The decimation of Kansas built some confidence and padded the Longhorns' stats, particularly in the run game.

"It's fun to just run the ball down someone's throat like that," quarterback David Ash said.

Especially, when you are the guy handing the ball off like Ash did for the first two and half quarters.

The Longhorns ran on 72 of their 93 plays. The reason was two-fold. First, Texas wanted get the ball in Malcolm Brown's hands and let him pound through what has been one of the country's most porous defenses. Secondly, Texas wanted to protect its quarterback. Not physically, but mentally.

Ash has been through two games of mishaps and pratfalls. He desperately needed a game in which the weight was lifted off his shoulders and placed on someone else's. Texas obliged by leaning on Brown and the offensive line.

The Longhorns rushed for a season-high 441 yards. Brown had 119. He was outrushed by true freshman Joe Bergeron, who had 135 yards after taking over in the second half.

"We thought it would be fun for two freshman backs to run for 100 yards," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

No doubt Kansas was not breaking out the party hats on the opposing sideline. The Texas defense, on the other hand, had plenty of time to bake a cake and celebrate.

"We're going to have to have a scrimmage tomorrow," defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.

That's because the defense was only on the field for 36 plays.

The offense, however, got plenty of work, and Ash was under center for the majority of it.

Ash was asked to throw one pass downfield. He missed. He connected on most everything else he threw. Ash, working the screen game, finished 14 of 18 for 145 yards. His two major miscues were a pick thrown into double coverage in the end zone. He also did not throw the ball away quickly enough and took a 15-yard sack that pushed Texas out of field goal range in the third quarter.

It has become clear that Ash is the quarterback Texas wants to have as its starter. Case McCoy didn't shed the headset until midway through the third quarter.

"The deal on the quarterbacks is we're developing two guys," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "We have got to continue to develop our quarterbacks. They both deserve to play. That's just where we are right now."

While that quarterback rotation may matter in the future it was completely inconsequential against Kansas in large part because of what the defense was able to accomplish. Kansas finished with 46 yards of offense. That's not a record. The fewest total yards ever allowed was five against Texas A&M in 1941. But it is a record in the Mack Brown era. The previous low for an opponent was 53 yards for UTEP in 2009.

"That's it right there," linebacker Keenan Robinson said. "That is football. We played complete defense tonight and that is what we wanted to do since the beginning of the season. We did it tonight. That's how you win games on defense.''

This is how, too -- hold an opponent to three first downs and negative two rushing yards.

"We always say that numbers aren't the most important thing, it is about getting the victory," Gideon said. "But at the same time, stats do speak volumes."

So too did Texas' win. Because a glance down the schedule shows that getting one more win to get bowl eligible presents some difficult sledding ahead.

Texas Tech, the next Texas opponent, is up one week and down the next. However, if the Red Raiders are up when they visit Texas next Saturday, they are dangerous.

Missouri, the team so close to everything -- including leaving for the SEC -- this season, finally pulled off a big upset at Texas A&M.

Kansas State is ranked. And quite possibly rankled after being embarrassed at home by Oklahoma.

The Aggies are the best first half team in the country and almost played three full quarters Saturday. Who knows what they might be capable of by late November?

Baylor ... well, the Bears have come back down to earth. But that is the last game of the season, and if Texas isn't bowl eligible by then, the faithful will be more red-faced than burnt-orange clad.

Add that all up and it means no one knows what might happen.

"We know these last five games are going to be tough, and we have got a chance at each one of them now," Brown said. "And I don't know that we would have said that at the beginning of the season."

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

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